Ask Pete: What is the difference between hard water and soft water?

If you live in Arizona you have probably heard the complaints about our famously hard water and know about the debate about hard water versus soft water. What exactly does all of that mean, and what is the difference between hard water and soft water? Let’s ask Pete!

Pete, what is the difference between hard water and soft water? 

All of the water that comes into your home is technically hard water because it arrives from the treatment plant having been cleared of dangerous contaminants, but still with lots of naturally occurring minerals in it. Hard water just means it still has high amounts of two specific minerals; magnesium and calcium. These minerals are dissolved so it’s not like you would see bits of these in your water or anything! They are there naturally in different amounts depending on the source of the water, but here in Arizona, those two are pretty much always in high amounts.

Most people say they can tell that those minerals change how the water tastes, how it feels, and how it affects their skin and hair. Hair salons almost always use water softeners, by the way. If you don’t like the hard water, you can have a water softener installed and it will soften the water for your whole home. Soft water is just water with much lower concentrations of those minerals, so it is more gentle on people, surfaces, appliances, and hair.

Which is better, hard water or soft water?

Hard water is not a bad thing, exactly. Most homeowners use their existing systems with no issues at all, but some people really like the many benefits of soft water; also some places absolutely need a water softener. For example, if you are getting the water that has extreme levels of minerals you might require one, but for people getting municipal water, it’s just a question of what you prefer. Soft water also reduces soap scum, so cleaning can be much easier, and if you have a problem with hard water stains, like on glass shower doors, for example, it helps with that, too. Basically, soft water is much better for washing your hair, for your laundry and kitchen washing, and for your appliances! That hard scale left behind by hard water can cause issues, water softeners can improve the situation.

Can you drink hard water?

Oh, yeah. Definitely. It is perfectly safe to drink hard water and in fact, some people prefer it to soft water, but really, both are safe to drink. Anyone on a severely salt-restricted diet should talk to their doctor about the safety of water softeners for them, but there are things you can do to ensure it is a safe choice for them. And, by the way, everyone with a water softener needs to follow the rules and do regular testing and maintenance of the system. It’s all really simple stuff your plumber can help you with.

Can hard water turn into soft water?

You can have a water softener installed and that will soften all the water in your home, but I suppose since we are talking about minerals in the water, those levels change all the time. Here in Arizona, though, there is a high level so it isn’t going to happen naturally.

There you have it. We hope this ‘Ask Pete’ has answered all your questions. Reach out if we can answer any of your plumbing questions or if we can help you improve your water! You can call us at 480-388-6093 and get a free estimate on a water softener.